PHILADELPHIA, Pa. (AP/WTXF) - A coalition of Philadelphia activists gathered Saturday afternoon in support of net neutrality.
The moment comes in the wake of the Federal Communications Commission's decision to repeal the Obama-era "net neutrality" rules allowing internet service providers like Verizon, Comcast and AT&T to slow or block websites and apps as they see fit or charge more for faster speeds.
In a straight party-line vote of 3-2, the Republican-controlled FCC junked the longtime principle that said all web traffic must be treated equally. The move represents a radical departure from more than a decade of federal oversight.
The big telecommunications companies had lobbied hard to overturn the rules, contending they are heavy-handed and discourage investment in broadband networks.
The push to eliminate net neutrality has stirred fears among consumer advocates, Democrats, many web companies and ordinary Americans afraid that the cable and phone giants will be able to control what people see and do online. But the broadband industry has promised that the internet experience for the public isn't going to change.
Activist organizations like Philly Socialists and March on Harrisburg are now pushing for a reinstatement of net neutrality rules and reclassification of the internet as a public service under Title II, among other fair access laws.
The FCC vote is unlikely to be the last word, though. Net neutrality supporters threatened legal challenges, with New York's attorney general vowing to lead a multistate lawsuit. Some activists also hope to see Democrats overturn the FCC action in Congress.